On May 19th, 2020, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) announced the expansion of the eligibility criteria to Michigan’s social equity program. As of June 1st, 2020, the number of disproportionately impacted communities increased from 41 to 184.
According to the MRA, this expansion will make it, “easier for individuals from those communities to qualify to participate in the program.”
What is the Social Equity Program?
Section 8 of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (MRTMA) requires the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) to develop a plan to promote and encourage participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. This is in effort to positively impact those communities.
Based on last year’s survey results and workgroups, the MRA developed a Social Equity Program that identified communities as eligible using two criteria:
- marijuana convictions, and
- poverty rates.
Initially, communities which had marijuana-related convictions greater than the state median and had 30% or more of the population living below the federal poverty level were identified as disproportionately impacted communities. In addition to these communities, communities with 20% or more of the population living below the federal poverty level now qualify.
This expansion results in a current total of 184 disproportionately impacted communities.
Fee Reduction and Other Changes
Applicants are longer required to live in a disproportionately impacted community to be eligible for a marijuana-related conviction fee reduction or a caregiver fee reduction. In addition, a 40% fee reduction has been added for applicants who have been convicted of a marijuana-related felony.
Below are available fee reductions, effective June 1, 2020:
Additionally, applicants/licensees who qualify for the maximum fee reduction will now receive a 75% reduction in their application and annual licensing fees. An applicant can meet any of the above criteria and be eligible for the associated fee reduction, regardless of where they reside in Michigan.
Currently, fee reductions last indefinitely so long as the applicant/licensee remains eligible for the fee reductions and operates within a disproportionately impacted community. Applicants/licenses may now operate outside of a disproportionately impacted community; if they choose to do so, the fee reductions will expire after the first two (2) years of operation.
What Communities Are Included in Michigan’s Social Equity Program?
Below is a list of communities currently included in Michigan’s social equity program:
Allegan: Fennville, Lee Township
Arenac: Alger, Sterling
Bay: Bay City, Midland, Pinconning
Berrien: Benton Harbor, Berrien Spring, Coloma, Eau Claire, Niles, Oronoko Township, Sodus Township, Watervliet
Branch: Bronson, Butler Township, Coldwater, Gilead Township, Quincy, Sherwood, Sherwood Township, Union City
Calhoun: Albion, Battle Creek, Springfield, Tekonsha, Tekonsha Township, Union City
Cass: Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg, Lagrange Township, Marcellus, Vandalia
Eaton: Charlotte, Vermontville
Emmet: McKinley Township, Wawatam Township
Genesee: Clio, Flint, Flint Township, Mt. Morris, Mt. Morris Township
Gratiot: Alma, Bethany Township, Breckenridge, Fulton Township, Perrinton, Seville Township, Wheeler Township
Ingham: East Lansing, Lansing
Ionia: Ionia, Muir, Orleans Township, Ronald Township
Isabella: Coldwater Township, Fremont Township, Mt. Pleasant, Shepherd
Jackson: Hanover, Jackson, Springport
Kalamazoo: Galesburg, Kalamazoo
Kent: Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids
Lapeer: Clifford, Columbiaville, Imlay City, Lapeer
Lenawee: Adrian, Morenci
Macomb: Center Line, Mt. Clemens
Mecosta: Aetna Township, Barryton, Big Rapids, Deerfield Township, Fork Township, Mecosta, Millbrook Township, Morley, Sheridan Township, Stanwood, Wheatland Township
Monroe: Luna Pier
Montcalm: Carson City, Crystal Township, Edmore, Greenville, Home Township, Howard City, Lakeview, McBride, Pierson, Stanton
Muskegon: Holton Township, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Twin Lake
Newaygo: Beaver Township, Big Prairie Township, Bridgeton Township, Denver Township, Fremont, Grant, Hesperia, Lilley Township, Merrill Township, Newaygo, Troy Township, White Cloud, Wilcox Township
Oakland: Hazel Park, Pontiac, Royal Oak Township
Ogemaw: Horton Township, Prescott, Richland Township, Rose City, West Branch
Ottawa: Allendale Township
Roscommon: Higgins Township, Richfield Township, Roscommon, Roscommon Township, St. Helen
Saginaw: Bridgeport Township, Carrollton Township, Chapin Township, Chesaning, Kochville Township, Marion Township, Saginaw, Spaulding Township
St. Clair: Port Huron
St. Joseph: Sturgis, Sturgis Township, Three Rivers, White Pigeon Township
Tuscola: Akron, Caro, Dayton Township, Gagetown, Gilford Township, Kingston, Koylton Township, Mayville, Vassar, Vassar Township
Van Buren: Arlington Township, Bangor Township, Bloomingdale, Breedsville, Columbia Township, Covert Township, Decatur, Decatur Township, Hartford, Keeler Township, Lawrence, Mattawan, Paw Paw, South Haven
Washtenaw: Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti
Wayne: Dearborn, Detroit, Ecorse, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Inkster, Melvindale, River Rouge, Wayne
Wexford: Antioch Township, Cadillac, Colfax Township, Mesick, Slagle Township
How Can I Apply for the Social Equity Program?
According to the MRA, their social equity representatives will continue to assist individuals with completing the social equity application. This will allow the MRA to determine if the individual qualifies for participation in the program.
At this time, the social equity team will be providing remote application assistance to qualifying applicants applying for adult-use licenses. This will be available on a one-on-one basis, as plans are made for a safe return to in-person sessions.
Later this year, the MRA will host a job fair. They are currently preparing to post job listings on their website and connect qualifying applicants with training resources that will help them develop the skills necessary for employment in the marijuana industry.
Expanding eligibility to more individuals, based on the framework that has been set up, is a great step forward. However, the issue is with supply/availability and cost. Since fewer municipalities have opted in to the MRTMA, fewer properties are available for social equity applicants to choose from.
While reduced fees and state application assistance is vital for social equity applicant success, the problem of finding a location and then obtaining local approval still very much exists.
For more information, contact Michigan’s Social Equity Team by email or by phone at (517) 284 – 8599.